Galatians 3:24, 25
Why the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The image of the Law as a tutor would apply directly to the condition of the Jews, to whom the Levitical system was given in their religious childhood in order to prepare them for the privileges of sonship which Christ was to confer. But what was true of them is more or less true of all of us. For the religious history of Israel is just an emphasized epitome of the religious history of the race. Through longer ages, by more obscure methods, in spite of more grievous lapses, God is educating mankind as he educated the Jews. Though in their case the process was hastened by the tropical heat of prophetic inspiration, and the results are portrayed in the clear light of a Scripture revelation, the method is still essentially the same. Law comes first and serves as the tutor till the gospel of Christ brings the liberty of manhood. Individually we pass through a similar education. The function of Law is here described. Law is a tutor.
I. THE TUTOR RESTRAINS AND CONTROLS HIS PUPIL, The tutor or poedagogos was not so much the teacher as the person to whom was entrusted the charge of the whole moral direction of the child. He had an almost absolute authority, such as English lads with the greater freedom allowed among us would resent as a galling yoke. A similar function pertained to the Jewish Law, and pertains to all law in so far as it comes into practical relations with our religious life. In particular note three characteristics common to the control of the tutor over his charge and the dominion of a religion of Law.
1. Rigid orders. The tutor would leave little to the discretion of his pupil, nor would he be likely to explain the reason for his mandates. So Law requires definite actions and affords little scope for the intelligent consideration of general principles and none for freedom of action upon them.
2. Compulsion. The tutor commands. He does not spare the rod. Law depends on threats and fear of punishment, or on hopes of reward, or at best on a stern sense of necessary obligation, and not on love and willing acquiescence.
3. Restraints. Probably the old tutor would check and repress rather than guide, encourage, and develop the natural disposition of his pupil Law says, "Thou shalt not," with more emphasis than "Thou shalt."
II. THE TUTOR IS SUITED TO THE PERIOD OF CHILDHOOD. Much that entered into the stern old system of discipline was as unfitted to youth as to manhood, and we are beginning to see the advantages of a freer kind of education. Nevertheless, certain restraints are essential to the condition of childhood, and the relaxing of them must be most disastrous. The duty of implicit obedience must be learnt before it is possible to understand the principles of abstract morality. Conscience must be educated by Law. In the infancy of the race the pure spirituality of Christianity could not be perceived, and a lower, narrower religion was all that came within the grasp of men. There is a law enclosed within the gospel, and those who are spiritually too backward to say, "The love of Christ constraineth me," are reminded that "whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
III. THE TUTOR PREPARES FOR THE TIME or MANHOOD. If he does his work welt he does not convert his pupil into a slave. By teaching the habit of obedience he prepares for a willing acquiescence in a higher will; by inculcating a certain course of action he lays the foundation for a character in harmony with it. This preparatory influence in education admits of wide application; e.g. the boy must first master the rules of arithmetic in order that he may subsequently comprehend the principles of mathematics, must take grammar as an introduction to philology, etc. Thus St. Paul gives no excuse for the Marcionite heresy, which rejects the Old Testament religion as a had thing. He not only allows it to be good in its way, but the only thing possible in its time and a direct preparation for the later and freer religion. There is a continuity in history, there is a continuity in God's providential control of history, and there is a continuity in the growing stream of grace that flows through history. Christianity stands on the foundation of Judaism. The Old Testament is useful in preparing us for Christ. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that part of this efficacy is negative. The very failure of the Law and its increasing irksomeness prepare for Christ by making us feel the need and enjoy the liberty of his grace.
IV. THE TUTOR IS DISMISSED WHEN THE TIME OF MANHOOD ARRIVES. The tutor who was useful to the child will be a hindrance to the grown man. The submission which was dutiful in childhood becomes servile in manhood. The yoke of the Law is not the less a nuisance to the Christian because it was a necessity for the Jew. There is great skill in the apostle's argument, for, while showing that he was no enemy to the Law but appreciated its utility, he pointed out that that very utility involved its being superseded. Its purpose was important, but preparatory, to prepare for the gospel. The blossom must fall that the fruit may develop. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.